As this game approached, Steelers fans justifiably spent most of their football-related energy fretting about the injured Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers, and especially their defense, gave themselves a chance to win without their star quarterback.
What they did with that chance, though, is another matter. The game was riddled with strange decisions and outright mistakes, and that was more than enough for the Ravens, who came away with a 13-10 victory.
Byron Leftwich, starting for Roethlisberger, looked like Byron Leftwich, except worse. It appeared throughout the game as if he might be injured, and he frequently under-threw his targets, but the Steelers kept running him out there, and he ended up 17-of-38 for 201 yards and an interception.
Some of the play-calling was odd, too -- for example, near the end of the third quarter, on 3rd-and-2 from the Ravens' four yard line, Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley had Leftwich throw a fade route to Mike Wallace. It nearly worked, but Wallace couldn't get both feet in, and the Steelers were forced to kick a field goal, instead of the touchdown, which would have tied the game. One would think a rushing play might have been an easier way to pick up the first down, at the very least, particularly given that Leftwich was in at quarterback.
The last several minutes of the game were difficult to watch. The Steelers had burned timeouts earlier in the half, so they had just one left for the end of the game. They burned their last one with 2:04 on the clock. Then, as Baltimore faced a 3rd-and-7, Brett Keisel was called for offsides. The Steelers were able to stop the Ravens on 3rd-and-2, but since the Steelers didn't have any timeouts left, the Ravens were able to run the clock all the way down to 1:12.
Finally, the Ravens punted, leaving the Steelers with just over a minute to charge most of the way down the field to attempt a kick. Unfortunately, on the second play of the drive, Rashard Mendenhall made a catch but chose not to go out of bounds despite clearly having the opportunity to do so, leaving Leftwich and the rest of the offense scrambling to the line as seconds ticked off the clock. Then Leftwich actually made a great throw to Jerricho Cotchery ... who was hit hard by Bernard Pollard, resulting in an incompletion. Then the Steelers botched a snap, but Leftwich recovered the ball and threw downfield to an open David Gilreath. Unfortunately, his throw was way short.
Ultimately, the Steelers lost because Leftwich wasn't good enough, and because their decisions weren't good enough. If Leftwich was hurt (and it looks like he was either hurt, or completely toast as an NFL quarterback), that's one thing. The decision-making was another. The Steelers' defense, which held the Ravens to just 200 total yards, did its part, and let's also tip our caps to running back Jonathan Dwyer, who looked great picking up yardage after contact. Unfortunately, much of the rest of what went on was frustrating.